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Padre Antonio SOLER (1729-1783)
6 Conciertos for 2 Organs R. 463 (145)
Concierto No. 1 in D major [6:54]
Concierto No. 2 in A minor [11:30]
Concierto No. 3 in G major [7:56]
Concierto No. 4 in F major [7:12]
Concierto No. 5 in A major [9:29]
Concierto No. 6 in D major [10:40]
Jürgen Essl, Jeremy Joseph (organs)
rec. 2018, Catedral Metropolitana, Mexico City.

We last came across the magnificent twin organs in Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral in Jürgen Essl and Jeremy Joseph’s magnificently fascinating and deeply impressive improvisation album on Cybele (review). These Soler Concierti must have been recorded at the same time, and this disc has the same binaural and multi-channel SACD options as well as a standard CD layer.

Padre Antonio Soler became Kapellmeister at the Spanish court in Madrid in 1757, where he mingled with and was influenced by the likes of Domenico Scarlatti, aspects of his music that can be heard in the works on this recording. These concertos were written for Soler’s student Prince Don Gabriel, heir to the Spanish throne, and the two would no doubt have played them together often. Most of the concertos are in two movements, with an Andante or Allegro followed by a Minué or minuet with variations. The keyboard range of the original manuscript implies the use of two large harpsichords, though marked registrations indicate the organ option was also considered. These works sound superb on Joseph Francisco Nassarre Cimmora’s twin organs, with Jeremy Joseph on the Epistle Organ on the right side of the soundstage, and Jürgen Essl on the left, playing the Gospel Organ.

These concertos are great fun, and sound terrific in this rich organ atmosphere. The booklet notes remind us that they would have been for courtly entertainment than for any kind of church use, so it is important that we’re removed from ecclesiastical associations in these organ versions. Choice of registrations give Soler’s music a witty feel, and the depth of scale in the sound, from stops close to the ear contrasting with those that stretch off into the distance make movements such as the second of Concierto No. 1 a treat for the ear, this one having birdsong thrown in for good measure at one point. We may be in a cathedral, but the music is through and through secular.

It’s not all gimmicks of course, and the opening of Concierto No. 2 reminds us of the warm expressiveness of these organs, even where athletic finger-work is adding filigree decoration. The Affetuoso first movement of Concierto No. 4 is also particularly lovely. Essl and Joseph’s rhythmic synergy is perfect, their ensemble such that the effect is often of one spectacularly well-endowed instrument, even where the sheer variety of the sound is creating a verdant field of spatial and sonic effects.

This is not the only recording of the Conciertos R. 463 (145) on organs. Maurizio Croci and Pieter van Dijk have a decent enough if not particularly exciting recording on Brilliant Classics, but a closer comparison would be Peter Hurford and Thomas Trotter, who made their version for Decca in the Spanish Salamanca Cathedral. These old instruments are less flamboyant than Nassarre Cimorra’s in Mexico, but have a colourful character that would complement this Cybele disc if you’re interested in deepening your acquaintance with these works. The bottom line is that, for performance, recording and general sense of joie de vivre, this Cybele set of Soler’s 6 Concertos is pretty much unbeatable when it comes to versions played on organs.

Dominy Clements

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